Quickie: Reinvent, Don’t Replace, the Special Envoy

Andrew Exum in FP’s Argument column  pens 5 Ways to Win the War in Afghanistan (FP | December 15, 2010).  Item #3 caught our attention:

3. Reinvent, Don’t Replace, the Special Envoy

Trying to replace a diplomatic giant like the late Ambassador Richard Holbrooke is a fool’s errand. The president should not even try. But he will still need officials responsible for coordinating U.S. policy between Afghanistan and Pakistan. The comparatively low-key acting Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Frank Ruggiero, should keep Holbrooke’s team in place to do just that.

As far as the regional “super envoy” job that Holbrooke attempted to fill (with mixed success, it must be said), it might be best left to a respected United Nations diplomat — such as Lakhdar Brahimi, who had earlier successes enlisting the support of Afghanistan’s neighbors. State Department officials and CENTCOM commander James Mattis, along with envoys in Kabul and Islamabad, could then be used to properly allocate diplomatic and military resources between the two countries.

In Afghanistan, Ambassador Karl Eikenberry is likely headed home soon. The president and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton should spend more time searching for his replacement than trying to replace Holbrooke. I’m sure Gen. Petraeus would appreciate an attempt to lure former U.S. Ambassador to Iraq Ryan Crocker out of semi-retirement and back to the region.

This is, of course, not the first time we’ve heard of Ambassador Eikenberry’s eventual departure.  In fact, in early December, somebody was making the case on teevee that the ambassador should go “because his relationship with Afghan President Hamid Karzai had been irreparably damaged by leaks.” 

Also, last week, David Rothkopf blogged about All Obama’s personnel issues resolved on one napkin and floated a name for Richard Holbrooke’s successor:

Want to replace Holbrooke with someone who will dive into the issues with abandon and courage? How about Bill Richardson? He’s a bit of an unmade bed, but he gets results and is great on the personal diplomacy front. 

I’m sure we’ll see more names floated around before long.